Thiruvananthapuram: The Thiruvananthapuram international airport here is once again ready to close its runway and halt flight operations for five hours on Tuesday afternoon to enable the smooth passage of the “God”.
The airport has been stopping operations and rescheduling flights twice in every year for decades to enable the bi-annual centuries-old ceremonial procession of the famous Padmanabha Swamy temple here to pass through the runway.
As one of the “Aaratu” processions of the temple, marking the culmination of the Alpassi festival, falls on Tuesday, the airport authorities here informed that the flight services shall remain suspended for five hours from 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm.
The practice of closing the airport for the ritualistic procession has been continuing without fail even after the Adani Group took over its management last year.
“To enable and facilitate the smooth continuation of a centuries-old ritual by Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple for the Alpassi Arattu procession, through the runway of the Thiruvananthapuram International airport, the flight services shall remain suspended from 1600 to 2100 hours on the 1st November 2022,” the airport management said here in a statement.
Domestic and international services during this period have been rescheduled.
An airport source said that at least 10 flights have been rescheduled for the ritualist procession as of now.
“There is an Aaratu mandapam near the runway where the temple idols are being kept for some time as part of the ritual during the procession. We are keeping it with all sanctity. We are facilitating the passage of the traditional procession. The flight companies are also extending all cooperation to retain the legacy,” the source told PTI.
Historian Malayinkeezhu Gopalakrishnan said the mandapam, which is now located near the airport runway, is known as “karikku” (tender coconut) mandapam.
“The practice of keeping the idols for some time at this structure began during the reign of erstwhile king Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma in the 18th century. It was said that there was a practice to offer tender coconut to those who take part in the procession at the mandapam. That might be the reason the structure was named like that,” he told PTI.
The procession would further proceed after some brief pujas and rituals.
According to the traditional practice, the processional idols of the temple deities would be carried to the sea behind the airport for a holy dip twice a year in a ceremonial march, which has been taking this route even before the airport was established in 1932.
The airport issues a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) twice every year before the runway is closed during the bi-annual Alpashy festival which falls in October-November and the Panguni festival in March-April.
After a dip in the sea off Shankumugham beach, the idols would be taken back to the shrine in a procession lit by traditional torches which marks the conclusion of the festival.